In gauging beauty, congeniality counts

From Washington, D.C., at the 108th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association

Attractive people get more than the simple benefit of looking good. According to many studies, they also benefit from other people’s unsubstantiated assumption that positive personalities naturally accompany good looks. Does that mean that plain Janes have no hope on the social scene?

No, personality still counts, say Brian J. Fisk and Stacy L. Tantleff-Dunn of the University of Central Florida in Orlando. They gave 335 students drawings of a range of possible figures for a woman and then asked the students to choose the heaviest and lightest figure they found attractive. The researchers also provided some students with a story that described the woman as having either positive personality traits, such as friendliness, or negative ones.

Students, especially women, who read positive stories rated more figures as attractive than did students given no personality information. “When individuals are viewed in the context of their personalities, they may be viewed with less stringent [physical] standards,” the authors conclude.